Piecing together motorcycle history
MINTURN ” The smell of oil, stale gasoline and old iron permeates the checker-floored room where Jerry Sibley shows off 60 motorcycles ranging from early an early 1900s Indian to modern day sport bikes.
“I kept collecting and it kind of turned into this eclectic collection of bikes,” Sibley said.
Vintage motorcycle posters hang from the walls. Nortons, Vincents, Bultacos, Suzukis and Ducatis ” many restored by Sibley ” mingle side-by-side in brightly-colored patterns. In the adjacent shop, a 1938 English Brough Superior ” one of about 10 in the country ” sits on a stand in the final stages of rebuild, parts strewn out below.
Brough Superior motorcycles were born in 1921 and remained in production until 1940. Sibley’s bike is the same brand and just six years older than the motorcycle British soldier and author T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, was killed on in 1935.
Sibley purchased the motorcycle five years ago. Now, the seed of possibility shines in the 1000-cc engine, capable of rocketing the Brough Superior ” dubbed the Rolls Royce of motorcycles ” to a top speed of 100 mph, Sibley said.
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Hours of work and sweat went into the machine. The original rust-logged gas tank had to be remade by a fellow in England; exhaust system parts were specially made; and countless other specialty parts were sunk into the bike.
“It’s been a pretty long process,” Sibley said. “We like to ride so much it gets in the way of the build.”
When Sibley buys a bike, he strips it down and fixes any failing parts. Then the bike is pieced back together for fit and function before tearing it down again for painting and final reassembly.
“The hard part is getting time to do it,” Sibley said. “You get bogged down in the project because you’ve got to keep three race bikes going.”
Sibley, 66, keeps the dirtbikes running to ride in six to 18 national vintage dirtbike races each year ” something he’s done for 15 years. Wife Judy Sibley, also a rider, follows her husband to the races and lends a hand.
“She’s the pit crew,” Jerry Sibley said.
“If he gets stuck I push him out,” Judy Sibley said.
Sibley first hopped on a dirtbike in the ’60s after some prodding from friends. “They said ‘You’ve got to come out and try the bikes; its’ just like skiing,’ ” Sibley said.
The standing part is similar, you just have a bit more throttle, Sibley added.
In 1970, Sibley pulled down the trophy for Bolivian motocross champion while serving in the Peace Corps.
In addition to the races, the Sibleys attend numerous motorcycle rallies, including a recent trip to England and Scotland for the 50th anniversary of the Vincent motorcycle club. Next year the Sibleys are heading to a rally in Australia.
“You see the same people and make new friends,” Judy Sibley said.
Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or firstname.lastname@example.org.